Walla Walla theater presents 'Anne Frank'

Dori O'Neal, Herald staff writerApril 5, 2013 

The Little Theatre of Walla Walla will present the stage adaptation of Anne Frank's life starting April 5.

The story of Frank, a young woman who perished in the Holocaust, has been chronicled in books, plays and movies. Her sad and gripping diary has been published in dozens of languages and was turned into a stage play in 1955, written by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett.

Cheryl Sutlick and Robert G. Randall are sharing directing roles for The Diary of Anne Frank, which continues April 6, 12-14 and 19-20. All shows start at 8 p.m., except for April 14, which is a 2 p.m. matinee only. Tickets cost $14 at the box office.

"I selected this play because I have used it as part of my English curriculum for many years," Sutlick said. "I have taught both English and drama for more than 30 years, and each year I kept telling myself to put this production on stage. Finally, I made it a reality."

Anne Frank was just 4 years old when Hitler came into power. His ruthless reign from the 1930s until World War II ended in 1945 and brought unimaginable horror and death to millions of Jewish people in Europe, including Anne and her family.

Anne's father, Otto Frank, discovered his daughter's diary after the war ended and had it published. He was the only survivor of the Holocaust in his family. Anne and her sister, Margot, died of bacterial infections in 1945 while incarcerated in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Her mother, Edith Frank, died of starvation at Auschwitz.

Otto Frank believed the essence of the diary needed to be preserved and agreed to have it staged, according to the official Anne Frank website. The play debuted at the Cort Theater in New York City on Oct. 5, 1955.

The role of Anne Frank in the Little Theatre production will be portrayed by Sydney Butcher, daughter of Anne Buchan. Sydney, an eighth-grader at Pioneer Middle School in Walla Walla, has been involved with theater since the fifth grade.

"I've been trying out for plays for quite a while now," Sydney told the Herald in an email. "I like theater, and I wanted to audition for this part."

She had already read the book before she auditioned, and when it came time to portray a young girl who suffered tragically in her life, she went to a different place in her head.

"I tried to put myself into (Anne's) shoes and feel what she went through," Sydney said. "She was very optimistic even though her situation was bad."

Sutlick said she knew Sydney was the one to play Anne from the first time she auditioned.

"Anne was a spirited, outspoken young girl who never failed to speak her mind," Sutlick said.

Sydney showed the right stuff immediately, Sutlick added.

"Her progression into a young woman must be obvious to the audience, and we really saw that spirit and full-of-life attitude in Sydney."

*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; doneal@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @dorioneal

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